After nine years, freedom and a new home for one Iranian refugee

Freedom has come at last for Mehdi Ali, one of the refugees incarcerated in the Park Hotel in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton who were thrust into the spotlight when Novak Djokovic was briefly detained there before the Australian Open in January. Now, after a gruelling nine years in detention, Mehdi is leaving our shores for a new home in the US.

Writing on his Twitter account last night, Mehdi wrote:

Tonight I am free and leaving Australia to start my life in the United States of America. But I won’t be happy until all my friends are released from detention. It’s not freedom until we are all free. Thank you all for your support.

Only last week, Mehdi, writing in The Saturday Paper, spoke of the anguish experienced every time others were released from detention and he was not.

“I said my goodbye to friends … and they went out of the gates of hell called ‘indefinite detention’. Terrible silence filled the space in this hell where we remained.

“Disillusioned and disturbing thoughts and feelings filled the hearts and minds of the cage dwellers. During the past nine years, I witnessed dozens of times like these two nights of waiting. There have been hundreds of days like that day when my friends got their freedom. Thousands of people who came by boat after July 19, 2013, were released. Onshore, there are only dozens of us left without a clear explanation.”

Tim Costello, who participated in the Freedom Cage protest outside Victoria Hotel last month (Let these people go – Eternity News), wrote on Mehdi Ali’s Twitter:

“Good to know you are free. You have been such a clear voice against the unnecessary cruelty of detention. I wish you all the best for your life in the US.”

Alicia Payne, MP, the Federal Member for Canberra, addressed the House of Representatives about Mehdi Ali’s nine years of detention yesterday.

“He’s been kept in detention since his arrival in 2013 – when he was only 15 years old.”

A delighted Ms Payne expressed her delight on Mehdi’s Twitter feed along with many other Australians, including journalists.

“Wonderful news!” she wrote. “Wishing you all the best. Deeply ashamed of how our country has treated you.”

Kon Karapanagiotidis, the CEO and Founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, tweeted “It will forever be a stain on this nation that we could not find room for
@MehdiAli98 or all of the refugees that have had to go to the US to find freedom or those still detained offshore in PNG or Nauru or held still in onshore prisons after 9 years. This cruelty shames us all.”
And as people expressed their pleasure at Mehdi Ali’s newfound freedom, he tweeted these words: “Thank you all for your kind comments and messages. I apologise if I can’t reply to them. Unfortunately, I cannot be happy yet. How could I be happy when my friends are sleeping with tears and sighs and wake up with tears and sighs?”
The Refugee Council of Australia provides detailed statistics on those who have been granted visas, sent to a third country, returned to their country of origin, been medevac’d out of Nauru or Manus Island to Australia, etc. There are still many asylum seekers who are waiting for the kind of news Mehdi Ali received last night. Please pray for those in detention. It is a very dehumanising experience.